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The History Of Indian Diplomacy Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5481 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Indian Parliament-the citadel of Indian constitution represents the vim vigor and vitality of Indian democracy. The constitution of our country places supreme authority in the parliament. The parliamentary executive solely governs and conditions not only the domestic but also the foreign affairs of the country. In India the executive authority of conducting foreign affairs is shared by the President, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Minister of External Affairs. The executive power of the union is vested in the president who, in accordance with the Constitution of India, conducts the diplomatic policy of the state. As the head of the state, the President, is formally in charge of foreign affairs; the real authority rests, however, in the Prime Minister and the council of Ministers. Moreover Since the diplomatic relation of the country plays an important role in designing the visage of a country in terms of socio-politico-economic growth, the Parliament which represents the aspirations of Indian electorate masses is more or less responsible for the Diplomatic outlook of the State.

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The evolution of a democratic form of government in a country like India, which has little experience in the art of diplomacy and diplomatic service, is significant because unlike the monarchial and military regimes prevalent in most newly independent countries, India’s Diplomatic and Foreign Affairs machinery is responsible to an elected legislature modeled after the British Parliament. The responsibility to the parliament imposes certain obligations upon the Administration in defense of national interests which cannot be undermined by any powerful domestic groups or foreign agencies. The initiation of foreign policy is the prerogative of the council of ministers whose members are appointed by the President upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Ministers are the elected representatives of people sitting in either house on the parliament. The democratically elected political executive and Parliament are held solely responsible for the formulation and implementation of foreign and defence polices. On the basis of this logic, the Constitution makers had clearly defined and demarcated jurisdictional boundaries by assigning foreign and strategic policy making roles only to the central government and limited the role of regional-state governments to deal with local law and order and developmental activities. So, in the more than six decades of post-Independence phase of democracy, foreign and defence policies have been pursued by the central government on the basis of its perceptions of national interests.

1.1 India’s Global Position

India has formal diplomatic relations with most nations; it is the world’s second most populous country, the world’s most-populous democracy and one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. With the world’s seventh largest military expenditure, ninth largest economy by nominal rates and third largest by purchasing power parity, India is a regional power and a potential superpower. India’s growing international influence gives it a prominent voice in global affairs. It has moved beyond its traditional interest in South Asia to a greater involvement in East Asia.

India is a newly industrialized country, it has a long history of collaboration with several countries and is considered a leader of the developing world. India was one of the founding members of several international organizations, most notably the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, G20 industrial nations and the founder of the Non-aligned movement. India has also played an important and influential role in other international organizations like East Asia Summit World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund (IMF), G8+5 and IBSA Dialogue Forum. Regionally, India is a part of SAARC and BIMSTEC. India has taken part in several UN peacekeeping missions and in 2007, it was the second-largest troop contributor to the United Nations. India is currently seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, along with the G4 nations.

With the world’s seventh largest landmass, second largest population, third largest army and the fourth largest economy in PPP terms, India already stands as a leader among nations. But what strikes people across the globe most is that despite its incredible diversity of race, religion, language, etc. and the immense challenges posed by the poverty and illiteracy of a large segment of its population, India has been a remarkable example of a country seeking to resolve the multifarious and complex issues before it through an active and participatory democratic process. Fifteen general elections and innumerable state and local level elections later, India’s credentials as the world’s largest democracy are universally recognized. Indeed, India’s general elections are viewed in awe as the biggest organized human exercises in history. In his address to both the Houses of the Indian Parliament on 8 November 2010, the US President, Barack Obama, had paid the country a great tribute, “It’s no coincidence that India is my first stop on my visit to Asia, or that this has been my longest visit to another country after becoming President. For in Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging, India has emerged”.

1.2 History of Indian Diplomacy

Foreign policy used to be the exclusive domain of the diplomats and soldiers before the rise of representative democracy. It used to be conducted by the elite in a complete secrecy and without taking their respective publics into confidence. The history of the European diplomacy until the two World Wars has been replete with the making of secret treaties with other powers without the knowledge of their publics. However the evolution of the democratic system has changed this completely, bringing democratic institutions such as the parliament, the media, various interest groups, and the public opinion into picture. Executive branch of government is no longer completely independent both in the formulation and implementation of the foreign policies. The very existence of these institutions serves as a major deterrent for the rulers who have to be very careful in the making of the policy. They have to be accountable to their respective publics which exercise their control through these democratic institutions.

The diplomatic policy of a country is not just carved out of the present political situation. Their roots go far back in history. They are interlaced with the national character of the people, geographical position and the historical relations with the neighboring countries. From time immemorial people have entered India (settlers, traders, looters, conquerors) bringing in a variety of cultures to this ancient land. The different cultures diffused and were assimilated to form present cultural patterns. It was this assimilated culture that permeated south and south east Asian countries, areas designated by historians as “Greater India”. This cultural assimilation is significant because India enjoyed somewhat a central position in the then civilized Afro-Eurasian world, extending from china to Mesopotamia, Greece and Africa. Indian vessels sailed in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. A well organized trade from the shores of Nile, Oxus and Tigris to the bank of Indus existed in the Second millennium B.C. The way of living, eating habits, types of dresses and methods of worship, indicate the similarity of traditions between the people of Greece and Rome and the people of India. Diplomatic relations have therefore existed between India and the King of Mitanni(middle east) goes back to 1400 B.C, illustrating the fact that nations at such a early period of history maintained diplomatic contacts.

Owning to the Indian philosophy of Truth and Non-violence ,Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi as prime ministers followed the policy of non-alignment with two power blocs in the post-world war phase of the international structure of power. The collapse of the USSR meant this bipolarity in international relations was replaced by a unipolar global order and India adjusted and adapted its foreign and defence policies accordingly.

Even before independence, the Government of British India maintained semi-autonomous diplomatic relations. It had colonies (such as the Aden Settlement), sent and received full diplomatic missions, and was a founder member of both the League of Nations and the United Nations. After India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, it soon joined the Commonwealth of Nations and strongly supported independence movements in other colonies, like the Indonesian National Revolution. During the Cold War, India adopted a foreign policy of not aligning itself with any major power bloc. However, India developed close ties with the Soviet Union and received extensive military support from it.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, promoted a strong personal role for the Prime Minister but a weak institutional structure. Nehru served concurrently as Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs; he made all major foreign policy decisions himself after consulting with his advisers and then entrusted the conduct of international affairs to senior members of the Indian Foreign Service. He was the main founding father of the Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful co-existence.

His successors continued to exercise considerable control over India’s international dealings, although they generally appointed separate ministers of external affairs.

India’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964-66), expanded the Prime Minister Office (sometimes called the Prime Minister’s Secretariat) and enlarged its powers. By the 1970s, the Office of the Prime Minister had become the de facto coordinator and supraministry of the Indian government. The enhanced role of the office strengthened the prime minister’s control over foreign policy making at the expense of the Ministry of External Affairs. Advisers in the office provided channels of information and policy recommendations in addition to those offered by the Ministry of External Affairs. A subordinate part of the office-the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)-functioned in ways that significantly expanded the information available to the prime minister and his advisers. The RAW gathered intelligence, provided intelligence analysis to the Office of the Prime Minister, and conducted covert operations abroad.

The prime minister’s control and reliance on personal advisers in the Office of the Prime Minister was particularly strong under the tenures of Indira Gandhi (1966-77 and 1980-84) and her son, Rajiv (1984-89), who succeeded her, and weaker during the periods of coalition governments. Observers find it difficult to determine whether the locus of decision-making authority on any particular issue lies with the Ministry of External Affairs, the Council of Ministers, the Office of the Prime Minister, or the prime minister himself.




India follows the British Constitutional model. Making foreign policy decisions is the function of the cabinet, which, in turn, is responsive as well as responsible to the opinions expressed in the Lok Sabha, Lower House of the Parliament in India. Since the cabinet can continue in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the Lower House, the decisions it takes and their execution must be such as are acceptable to the majority of members of the Lok Sabha. In the U.S. Constitution, the ratification of treaties and other international agreements by the Senate is mandatory, but in the Indian Constitution there is no such provision. In India, the ratification of treaties is done by the President. However, before the government concludes a treaty or an international agreement, it invariably consults the members of the Parliament. The Parliament has various devices to control the foreign policy. It may legislate on any matters pertaining to the foreign affairs, though in practice the Indian Parliament has engaged itself in very little legislation. It can exercise financial control through controlling the budgetary allocations. It can engage in deliberations by raising questions, passing resolutions, moving adjournment motions and debates on the foreign policy matters. The Indian Parliament exercises its control over foreign affairs through three committees: Consultative Committee of Parliament for the Ministry of External Affairs, the Estimate Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. The Consultative Committee provides a forum for informal discussion between the members of the Parliament and the Ministry of External Affair The membership of this committee is drawn both from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Upper House of the Parliament. Apart from the Consultative Committee, the Estimate Committee and the Public Accounts Committee indirectly influence the conduct of foreign relations as they make judgments and comments on the economy and the efficiency of the proposals sent by the Ministry of External Affairs. The essential part of the functions of the executive is to make international negotiations, treaties and agreements. Parliaments also have an important role to play in the matters of foreign affairs. Apart from the task of ratification of international treaties, enactment of laws and sanctioning of budgetary allocation to meet commitments on various treaties and agreements, Parliament also have the usual means of parliamentary check such as questions, various motions, resolutions, parliamentary committees, etc to discuss the foreign matters. In this way, they balance the efforts of the Governments in taking applicable stand at various forms on global issues which have direct or indirect consequence on national polity. In India, under article 246 of the Constitution of India, Parliament alone is conferred with powers to make laws with regard to foreign affairs; diplomatic, consular and trade representation; United Nations Organisation; participation in international conferences, associations and other bodies and implementing of decisions made thereof; entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries; foreign loans; trade and commerce with foreign countries, etc. Under article 253 of the Constitution, the Parliament of India is also vested with the power to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body. By virtue of article 73 of the Constitution the executive power of the Union extends to the matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws and to the exercise of such rights, authority and jurisdiction as are exercisable by the Government of India by virtue of any treaty or agreement; and article 53 vests the executive power of the Union in the President of India, exercisable either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution of India, the task of international negotiations including all activities relating to external assistance is essentially a part of the functions of the executive. The said tasks come under the jurisdiction of our Ministry of External Affairs, who concludes all treaties and agreements with the approval of the Cabinet. The views of all concerned Ministries are also taken into account before becoming a party to any such move. According to the present practice, the Parliament of India is kept fully informed of the initiatives by the Government in country’s foreign affairs. The copies of treaties and agreements are placed on the Table of the Houses of Parliament after the instruments of ratification are exchanged. Wherever necessary, the Government brings forward legislation or a motion to give effect to the provisions of a treaty and an agreement. If the provisions involve financial commitments, the matter comes up before Parliament in the form of budgetary demands. All these place Parliament and the parliamentarians in close proximity to foreign policy matters. Important matters of foreign affairs are often discussed on the floor of the House through various procedural devices also. Sometimes Resolutions are passed on the matters of crucial importance so as to reflect the collective will of the people and the nation. And0 there are several other channels such as the Departmentally Related Standing Committees including that on External Affairs through which Parliament gives its views and inputs to the Government. The Consultative Committees on External Affairs and those concerning to various other Ministries are yet another mode of involving Parliament and the members of Parliament in the task of country’s foreign matters.

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The Indian model gives near total freedom and autonomy to the executive and assumes a submissive Parliament which normally supports the government. The role of the Parliament is more of a general supervision and consultation depending upon the will of the government. Its advantages include flexibility, secrecy and relatively swift implementation of the foreign policy while the disadvantages include greater possibility of the abuse of power and trust of the people and erroneous judgments on the part of the government.The Indian Parliament is unique in its efficacy in expressing the central political value of our continental society. Indian domestic strength and foreign policy are directly related and public discussion of foreign policy options gives an advantage to the Government if it develops a strong and effective national commitment. A realistic conception of Parliament’s role in foreign policy must underline the following points:

First, members of Parliament have a relationship of “partnership” with the executive in providing an openly political dimension to the diplomatic activity and inner-administrative reasoning conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs. The legislative function cannot extend to the network of communications utilized by the Government to fulfil the country’s political and strategic interests, but it is only Parliament which can provide a full rationale for an integrated view of foreign and domestic policies.

Second, Parliamentarians can if they wish encourage a “problem-solving” attitude by transcending cloistered mentalities which are developed in the course of international disputes and expressed in Cold War clichés. Parliament can indeed function as an avant garde organization which seeks a widening of political opportunities both at home and abroad by visualizing foreign policy as an area of accommodation and legitimate compromise to clarify the consequences of new developments in scientific, technological, cultural and educational spheres, apart from the purely political and strategic developments.

Thirdly, the consultative opportunities of Parliament provide a permanent effort to relate expertise in foreign affairs to a momentum based upon the “thrust” of the historical national experience. The Ministry of External Affairs on account of time constraints does not have many opportunities for the projection of long-term futures, but Parliament can enhance the capacity and resources of the nation to develop a consistent framework for thinking about the future of the Indian contribution to the world system.

India has a parliamentary form of government based on universal adult franchise. The executive authority is responsible to the elected representatives of the people in the Parliament for all its decisions and actions. The Constitution of India states that the Indian Executive is the foremost branch of the Parliamentary form of government. The President, Vice President, Council of Ministers, Governor and Attorney General of India has played a greater role as far as executive branch is concerned. The President is the head of the state who is elected by the Electoral College which consist of both the houses Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The executive is the most important of the government in terms of its importance. Since we got our independence the executive branch has got its share of worth and recognition as a part of the government. It has been carrying out the most vital functions of executing the laws made by the legislature and also implementing. The competence of the government depends upon the effective functioning of its policies by the executive. Whole of the administration revolves around the executive branch without which administration holds no importance.

2.2.1 Mode of Selection 

The mode of selection varies from one country to another, Some executive are inherited the powers by virtue of being born in the royal family. This principle is followed in U.K., Nepal, Japan, Spain and many other Countries. The Chief executive is voted by the people. The election may be direct or indirect but secret voting is always carried out in one way or the other. The element of election makes the office democratic. More so the election is for a definite period which differs from Country to Country. U.S.A. and India offer examples of this type. There is another mode of selection of the executives is a process of nomination. The Governor Generals of Canada. New Zealand, Australia are nominated by British Crown. The Governors of Indian States are nominated by the President. Another process of selection is appointment by recruitment. The vast majority of the permanent or non-political executive in India or other Countries hailing from civil service are chosen on the basis of entrance exam.

2.2.2 Functions 

The functions of the executive in modern State are multifaceted and wide ranging. The compulsions of a welfare state, the pressures of an industrial society, the expectations from a positive state assign a variety of functions to the executive some of the important functions are discussed here implementation of laws and policies is the most essential part of the state administration of government. As head of the administration, he exercises a wide power of control over the personnel of the administrative service through his power to appoint, direct and remove his subordinates. The subordinates tend to work under his direction and supervision. Security of the country is of great importance; hence the executive performs certain functions so as to strengthen our security internally as well as externally. Such responsibilities increase many-fold when there is a war or internal riot, retaining political function is an important responsibility of the executive. Taking care of relationship with other States in the world constitutes an important function of the executive because the Countries grow in stature, technology and prosperity through mutual help and co-operation. Thus the executive through mutual relationship, with other States try to push through development and progress of its Country. The management of finance of the State is vital to the administration. The success or failure of the government largely depends on proper implementation of fiscal policy. The legislature controls the finance and grants funds to the executive. But it is the executive which very meticulously studies the needs of the administrative departments and finds out the ways and means to meet such expenses. It has the responsibility of preparing a budget which would be acceptable to the legislature. Once the budget is approved by the legislature the executive exercises tremendous control over its expenditure by the various departments. Law making comes under the domain of the legislature. But in practice it is found that the executive enjoys enormous legislative powers. In Parliamentary System the legislative responsibilities rest with the executive. The executive summons, prorogues and if need be dissolves the legislature. In the recess of both the Houses of Parliament the President of India can promulgate ordinance, which has the effect and force of law made by this legislature. The executive as per its requirement drafts and introduces legislative measures for adoption and gets it passed because of majority support. This undoubtedly has made the executive more powerful. The executive also discharges some judicial responsibilities. The right of pardon or mercy is executive power. The Heads of executives in many countries enjoy this power. For example the President of India can suspend, remit or commute sentences of any person convicted of offence. Similarly the President of the U.S.A. enjoys similar power. The executive in many states have also taken up the responsibility of deciding cases having administrative implications.

An analysis of the powers of the executive stated above clearly indicates the predominance of the executive over the legislature and the judiciary. The executive gradually started acquiring more and more power owing to the emergence of welfare activities of the states. The development of the executive into what may be called a multi functioning organ is highly significant. The real authority in both the developed and developing states have come to rest with the executive. This growth of concentration of power in the executive has opened door for criticism from all quarters. According to Lord Hewart it has led to a rise of ‘New Despotism’ which has controlled the fate of so many by so few. But nevertheless executive tries to function in a more effective way keeping in mind the welfare of the public.


The Parliament of India transacts a great deal of its business through Committees, which are, in fact, microcosms and extensions of the Houses. The Committees have contributed a great deal in making the Parliament more effective in exercising control over and giving direction to the executive functioning and thereby making the executive more accountable. Apart from facilitating consideration of complex and technical issues in a non-partisan manner, which the House as a whole may find difficult to discuss, the Committee provide to the Members additional time for detailed deliberation on the legislative and financial business of the House. The Committee system in the Indian Parliament consists of various categories of Committees. Foremost among those are the Parliamentary Committees, which are appointed or elected by the House nominated by the Speaker, Lok Sabha or Chairman, Rajya Sabha. These Committees work under the overall directions of the Presiding Officers and as per rules of procedure framed from time to time, present their reports to the concerned House or the Presiding Officer. The Secretariat is provided by one of the two Secretariats of Parliament.Foreign policy permits India to have an interaction with the world outside and the main aimof foreign policy is to provide protection of its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.Thus it helps to provide the much needed national security to the country which makes itthe most integral part of the administration. The Parliament has a two-fold control overforeign policy. Firstly, the Parliament has the power to reject, approve or modify the foreign policyframed by the executive. Secondly, it has general supervisory powers over the conduct offoreign affairs. To enable the parliament to play these, the executive has to place allrelevantinformation before it and keep it informed of the government’s variousprogrammes, negotiations, treaties, agreements and other activities.


The Indian Parliament has, in general, supported its governments positions on the foreign policy issues. However, sometimes it has shown strong disagreement on some position as well. For example, there has been a strong criticism of the government’s policies during the Sino-Indian War of 1962. The record of the Parliamentary debateduring 1959-62 shows a lively debate on the issue and such an intense criticism of Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, that he was virtually forced to resign from the job. Similarly, the Indian Parliament moved a resolution condemning the military action of the Pakistan Army during the East Pakistan Crisis in 1970-71 and urged the world to take note of the situation. The resolution went beyond the government policy and amounted to interference in the domestic affairs of another country. The Indian Parliament has in general shown a lot of activism on the foreign policy issues relating to Pakistan and China. At times, the Parliament members have also resigned from their membership in protest against the government’s policy which was considered as too soft by them.Asubversive pragmatic vision is increasingly challenging some of thekey foundations of India’s traditional nationalist and left-of-centre foreign policy, diluting the consensus that shaped the policy, and raising new possibility esespecially for India’s relations with the United States and global nuclear arms control. This debate between two centrist foreign policy perspectives is not yet settled. The two are described here as ”traditional nationalist” and ”pragmatist,’ with the former representing the established and dominant perspective, and the latter as the emerging challenger. Actual Indian policy mostly splits the difference, mouthing traditional nationalist (hereafter referred to as simply nationalist) slogans while following pragmatist prescriptions. One major result has been the widening of political space for closer relations with the United States, even without a stable consensus. India’s economic growth, information technology prowess, and rising power have reshaped global perceptions of India and India’s perception of itself. A decade after India’s nuclear tests, India’s global relations have dramatically improved and New Delhi is increasingly wooed by major powers. Indian commentators have not been slow to notice that leaders from all of the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) visited India in 2010.16 For nationalists, this was a recognition of India’s importance which called for a ”noiseless celebration.’ The possibility exists, however, that at least some of India’s strategic elite are inflating India’s capabilities and attractiveness. Yashwant Sinha, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)leader and former Minister for External Affairs, expressed this overconfidence well when he argued, in the context of the recent visit by President Obama to India, that ”the U.S. needs India more” than India needs the UnitedStates.18 For instance, the United States was forced to lift the sanctions it imposed on India after the 1998 Indian nuclear tests because ”these sanctions were causing more damage to the U.S. than India.” This belief that India was so important that other powers would not standby futilely if India was invaded possibly even leading to a world war is presumably one of the reasons why Nehru thought that China would not attack India militarily in 1962. The sense of India’s intrinsic importance is also reflected in India’s push for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.20Though all shades of foreign policy opinion in India broadly support a permanent seat for India, nationalists tend to emphasize such demands more Equity and Democratic Global India’s foreign policymaking and highlighted several issues that link together questions of policy objectives and policy tools. First, the extent of India’s ambitions in its home region, South Asia, is contested. One view is that India should be satisfied with a level of military capabilities that guarantees New Delhi security by ensuring that India would prevail in a conflict with any of its neighbours, should such a conflict arise. A more ambitious view is that New Delhi should not be satisfied with security alone and should instead seek to exercise influence over its neighbours. Second, the opponents of the idea that India should rely on hard power and military force do not only question the relative effectiveness of


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